Cambodia’s long-ruling PM gears up for distant poll


Cambodia won’t hold a general election for another two years. But look at Prime Minister Hun Sen (left), its long-ruling and mercurial strongman, and you’d think one was imminent, Reuters reports:

Hun Sen’s party narrowly won the last election in 2013 after losing seats to a resurgent opposition that shook his decades-long grip on power. Now, with a familiar mix of guile and ruthlessness, Hun Sen is stepping up attempts to boost his popularity, blunt the opposition and avert a potential disaster in 2018, say analysts….

Hun Sen recently gave salary bumps to civil servants and workers in the politically sensitive garment sector, and relaxed unpopular laws relating to motorbike licenses and inheritance tax. He has also turned up the heat on his long-time political foe Sam Rainsy, a leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Hun Sen’s strategy is to squeeze the opposition and recast himself as a reformer who is doing “something good for the people,” said Koul Panha of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), an election watchdog based in the capital Phnom Penh.

“But his leadership style is still about fear and coercing voters – no change there,” he added. RTWT

At least four garment workers lost their lives yesterday and dozens more were injured when the two flat-bed trucks they were commuting to work on collided, according to Solidarity Center staff at the site of the incident. One of the trucks was carrying 50 people and the other more than 70 workers. The deaths left at least eight children without their mother. Agence France-Presse reports that 13 of the injured workers are in critical condition, Kate Conradt writes:

Cambodia’s garment sector features notoriously dangerous and largely unregulated transportation for its workers, who crowd onto open-air trucks to save money. According to Women’s Wear Daily, “73 garment workers died from traffic accidents while going to work, while 789 were injured” in 2014. Meanwhile, more than 7,000 garment workers were injured and 130 killed while they were being transported to and from factories in 2015, according to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

“The extremely high number of fatalities and injuries is completely unacceptable,” said William Conklin, Solidarity Center Cambodia program director. “Garment workers, or any other workers, should not have to fear for their life each day on the commute to and from work. Yet they do because of the confluence of low wages and high disregard for the lives of workers on the part of authorities and factory owners. Labor here is just a commodity.”

The Solidarity Center is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.


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